BB&T Corporation, one of the nation’s largest banks, has awarded $2 million to the Department of Philosophy to establish the BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism.
Tara Smith, professor of philosophy, has been named the first holder of the chair. Over 10 years, the gift will support research on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, as well as conferences, workshops, guest lecturers, visiting scholars and research on the moral foundations of capitalism.
Smith spearheads Objectivism scholarship in the university’s philosophy department. She has published several articles on Rand’s philosophy and the 2006 book, “Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist” with Cambridge University Press. She holds the Anthem Foundation Fellowship for the Study of Objectivism and is organizing the interdisciplinary conference, “Objectivity in the Law,” April 4-5.
“Ayn Rand’s philosophy has been the subject of increasing academic interest in recent years, and this generous gift will allow us to deepen examination of her thought and engage leading scholars in other fields, such as law,” the Rand scholar said. “It’s an exhilarating opportunity and a testament to BB&T’s recognition of the vital importance of philosophy in people’s lives.”
Rand, a Russian-born American philosopher and novelist, is best known for her magnum opus, “Atlas Shrugged.” A joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that “Atlas Shrugged” is the second most influential book for Americans today, after the Bible. According to the Ayn Rand Institute, an estimated 20 million copies of her books have been sold.
“We believe that ideas matter. In this context, BB&T is trying to encourage a thorough and fair discussion of Rand’s philosophy and the moral foundations of capitalism on university campuses,” said BB&T Chief Executive Officer John Allison. “We are pleased to support the philosophy department’s important work in the study of Objectivism at The University of Texas at Austin.”
BB&T Corp., headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., is a financial holding company with $132.6 billion in assets. With more than 29,000 employees, its bank subsidiaries operate more than 1,500 branch offices in 11 states and Washington, D.C.